Finding & Booking Accommodation (on a Budget) in India

When Goats on the Road were looking for accommodation in India, they found everything from US $3 guesthouse rooms to luxury, Maharaja-style resorts. Whatever your budget, it’ll likely come with the smell of incense, and a smiling owner ready to show you what Indian hospitality is all about.

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I spent over 6 months traveling around India. While I was on a tight budget and did stay in some dodgy rooms, for the most part, my accommodations were clean and comfortable.

Booking Accommodation

These days, a lot of room reservations are made online, but there are still many small, family-run guesthouses that take reservations by phone.

When I last traveled to India, I found the easiest way to find accommodation was to follow each guesthouse owner’s family recommendation.

Booking by Recommendation

As you travel around India, you’ll start to notice that almost every business owner seems to have a relative in the same industry.

If you really like the place you’re staying in, ask the owner if they know a place in the next town you’re heading to. More often than not, he’ll have a “cousin” who would be more than happy to accommodate you in his/her hotel.

I traveled this way through all of Rajasthan in 2009, and I rarely paid more than US $5 for my room! Despite being in different cities, each hotel I visited was owned by the same family, so I came to expect the same level of service and cleanliness.

Booking On-the-fly

It’s still quite popular for travelers to just arrive in a destination and walk around to find a place.

If you do choose to book your accommodation this way, be sure to check many rooms, and always check under the mattress for cockroaches and other bugs that hide in daylight.

The last thing you want is for the lights to go off at night and your room to come alive!

Booking Online

Today, the web has countless booking engines for finding rooms in India. My personal favourite is Booking.com, but you can also find rooms on HostelWorld.com, Expedia.com and many more.

In India, it’s especially important that you read reviews from other travelers, as some hotels can be quite dirty, loud, and uncomfortable.

This is especially important if you’re searching for hotels and hostels on the budget end of the spectrum.

A house boat in India. Photo credit: Goatsontheroad.com

Booking Via a Guide Book

Indian hoteliers still rely heavily on reviews from guidebooks like Lonely Planet. Many of the most popular places in the country have gained their reputation through different guide book reviews.

The great thing about guidebooks is that they typically have a phone number for each hotel, so you can simply call and reserve your room by phone.

Usually, you can do so on an honor system, without actually paying for your room before arriving.

Booking with Touts

Sometimes, when you arrive at a bus station or train terminal in a popular tourist destination, you’ll see some tuk-tuk and taxi drivers holding up photos of hotel rooms.

Sometimes these rooms are decent, but just know that a portion of your stay will be paid to the driver as a commission, and sometimes the rooms aren’t as nice as they look in the photos.

Having said that, I did follow a couple of these tout’s recommendations and was usually pretty satisfied with the room and the price.

Bonus Tip: If you want to save money, try booking overnight train journeys so that you can get to your next destination while you sleep. You’ll save money on accommodation!

Types of Accommodation in India

There are so many different options for accommodation in India. Here are some of the most popular styles.

Hostels

Whether you choose to stay in a dorm bed (from US $3/night), or you splurge and get a double room for you and your partner (from US $10/night), there’s pretty much a bed for all budgets in India’s hostels.

Hostels are generally clean and comfortable (read the reviews to be sure), and they come with the added bonus of having fun common areas where you can meet other travelers.

Hotels

A little more upmarket than hostels, hotels are still quite affordable in India.

In my experience, they’re not quite as good of value as some hostels or guesthouses, but they typically range around US $10/night for a room and up.

Some rooms will have private bathrooms inside the rooms, while others may have a toilet down the hall or in another building.

It’s worth checking if you’re a person who wakes at night for the bathroom.

Guesthouses

My personal favourite of all the accommodation options in India, guesthouses are typically family-run places with 5-10 comfortable rooms.

I love staying at guesthouses because you get to meet the owner, and get a taste of local life while you’re there.

Sometimes, the owners will even offer home-made food, or a small family party during your stay.

A room in an Ashram, Pondicherry. Photo credit: Goatsontheroad.com

Apartments

With AirBnB exploding all over the world, it’s no surprise that you can find some pretty nice apartments in India.

Options are great in the country, with many beautiful 1 and 2 bedroom places going for just US $30-50/night.

Your Room, Your Way

Finding apartments, hostels, hotels, and guesthouses in India is easy. If you’re ever not totally satisfied with your room, simply talk to the owner or manager.

In my experience, Indian people naturally want to make sure you have the best stay possible, so their hospitality will take over and they’ll generally fix whatever issues you may have.

If you read reviews, look at different rooms, and listen to local recommendations – you’ll have a great stay in India.

Just remember that everything in India is different than it is at home, so enjoy the ride and don’t be too picky!

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